By Jerold Auerbach
The New York Times could hardly ignore the ghastly murder of innocent Jewish teenagers or the unrelenting Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. But count on The Times to find ways to deflect attention from Jewish victims and targets while evading the responsibility of zealous Hamas perpetrators and their ecstatic followers.
Two glaring examples during the past week are illustrative. On June 7 the lead Times editorial, entitled “Four Horrific Killings,” bracketed the unprovoked murder of three hitchhiking Israeli boys, most likely by Hamas militants, with the reprisal killing of a Palestinian teen-ager by “extreme right-wing” Jews. Fair enough. But its moral equivalence failed to distinguish between the initial murders and the response they triggered. Both were undeniably reprehensible, but surely there is a distinction to be drawn between provocation and retaliation.
The editorial devoted two full paragraphs to right-wing Israeli protesters who demanded revenge, blocked roads in Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs,” and posted hate-messages on Facebook. In one sentence, by contrast, it noted: “Palestinians have been fully guilty of hateful speech against Jews.” No examples of such speech – to say nothing of hateful actions – were provided, but moral equivalency was honored: “each side dehumanizes the other.” There was no indication that Palestinian terrorists are enthusiastically and publicly celebrated as heroes by the Palestinian Authority and its loyal followers.
Times editors erroneously accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of “days of near silence” in response to the murder of the Palestinian boy. Even its printed “Correction” for that misstatement failed to note that Netanyahu had labeled the killing “reprehensible” on the day it occurred. And, as Seth Mandel noted on his Commentary blog (July 10), the noxious Times editorial also erroneously converted Netanyahu’s quotation from a poem denouncing vengeance and vigilantism into a statement of approval. There was no correction.
Three days after The Times editorial its lead Opinion column was entitled “A Palestinian Mother’s Fear in East Jerusalem.” Rula Salameh was understandably frightened by loud crashes and explosions outside her home. “We assumed these were rockets from Gaza.” Indeed they were. Unwilling to seek safety in bomb shelters in nearby neighborhoods with predominantly Jewish populations, she stayed home with her son to ponder the fate of Gaza civilians who would “pay a heavy price for their leaders’ attempt to hit the Israeli seat of government.” She did not consider the wisdom or morality of unremitting Hamas attacks on innocent Israeli civilians.
Then followed her litany of grievances, from “the Israeli military occupation” to the inability of her “Palestinian” ex-husband, “like millions of other Palestinian refugees,” to visit the West Bank. He was, it turns out, born and raised in Qatar, which hardly qualifies him as a “Palestinian refugee.” Except, of course, for UNRWA, the international organization that lists 5 million Palestinian “refugees” although fewer than 50,000 who ever lived in and left Palestine are still alive.
Her greatest fear, quite understandably in light of the appalling retaliatory murder of the Palestinian teen-ager, is that a similar fate might befall her 17-year-old son. Thinking of “the mothers whose sons have been arrested, beaten and humiliated by the Israeli police,” she asks: “How can a mother let her children out of the house, knowing now that in addition to the harassment and threats they have always faced from the Israeli police and authorities, they may be grabbed off the street and murdered?” She does not inquire how Israeli mothers might react to the unprovoked murder of three Jewish teenagers.
In the end, she recites the familiar litany that The Times finds so appealing that it cannot miss an opportunity to reiterate it in editorials, columns and news coverage: “The world must hold the Israeli government accountable for its actions,” most of all for “the entire occupation, whose violence and cruelty is the dark context for so much of what has happened over the past few weeks.”
But who will hold Hamas accountable for its actions, from kidnapping to murder to indiscriminate shelling of Israeli cities and towns? That question is of no interest – either to Rula Salemeh or, evidently, to The New York Times. It has yet to provide similar prominence for the expression of a Jewish mother’s fear.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author, most recently, of Jewish State Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy.